Music + writing

With my grade 7 English class, I had planned to have them do forum posts on the last week's reading. However, we discovered that the network was down. I had about 35 minutes with nothing planned. So I told them to put their heads down for the rest of the period.

Not really.

We've been reading The Giver, and it had mentioned that the Giver was able to hear music (as Jonas could see color). So I asked them to do a quick-write on why music was so important,. and while they did that I opened itunes, went through my library and made a folder of ten songs that I thought had distinct emotional values and that I was confident they were not familiar with. (With one exception, I was right.) We did a quick discussion of their quick-writes, and then I played about 2 minutes of each song and asked them to write down words and phrases about what they heard, what it made them feel, what it helped them think about associations, etc. After each clip, we talked about the music and they shared their impressions.

It was maybe the best lesson of the last few weeks. There responses were insightful and thoughtful, often poetic. They moved their hands to show how the music moved and talked about colors and shapes, feelings and movement. I wish I had recorded them. (But if I had -- if I made a big deal out of this -- would it have been as successful?) I have done something like this before and it has fallen flat, but I have always done it with older students who see music as key in their identity, and they have had trouble letting that go and hearing the music rather than judging it. It also helps that in the first half of the double lesson we had been having a very emotionally charged talk about how we deal with the realization that very bad things happen in the world, again in relationship to The Giver.

Anyway, here's the playlist:

1. Rachmaninoff Vespers, movement 1:

2. X, 'The Hungry Wolf'

3. Phillip Glass, 'Opening'

4. Jonsi, 'Go Do'

5. Nina Simone, 'Sinnerman'

6. The Ramones, 'Blitzkrieg Bop'

7. Ladysmith Black Mambazo, 'Abantwana Basethempeleni'

8. Tom Waits, 'Innocent When You Dream'

9. Billie Holiday, 'I Loves You Porgy'

10. Edith Piaf, 'Non je ne regrette rien'